Tuesday, August 14, 2007

An Ideal Model of FOI Legislation

According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s recommendations, [1] we can identify that an ideal FOI law should include the clear objective or principle of maximum disclosure. This law should generally gives a general right to anyone to access information in any form from public bodies received public funds or performing public function. Requesters can send any forms of requests, and have a right to choose the format of information provided. Requesters should be treated equally and information should be provided in a timely manner. Fees for requests should be limited to direct costs. Requests filed with an inappropriate institution should be transferred or referred to the correct body.

FOI Refusals must be grounded in law and must be made within the timeframes. Partial access is allowed. There are duties to assist requestors and to publish routine information on a regular basis. Exemptions should be clearly and narrowly defined. Class exemptions should be avoided. Harm and public interest tests are needed. More importantly, FOI legislation should have precedence over other laws. An office or officer should be designated to handle FOI requests. Central coordinating body and an independent oversight body should be established to promote FOI. Review system should not be the burden for requesters in any cases. Sanctions should be available in cases where it is shown that an official or body withholds information in violation of FOI legislation.

[1] Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Access to Information by the Media in the OSCE Region: Trends and Recommendations (2007)<>at 11 June 2007.

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